Love ’em or hate ’em, Facebook and smartphones are two of the most influential innovations of the last decade. For many of us, they’ve completely overhauled the way we connect, interact, consume and share content, and incinerate hours of the day. Even the average troglodyte is apt to use one or the other.

Naturally, then, it begs the question of whether or not the two could ever coalesce. After all, fellow internet giant (and fellow 21st Century trailblazer) Google has patented technology under the hood of Android devices, and their recent $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility suggests that a full smartphone venture might soon be dialed up. Turning software into hardware might just help rebalance Facebook after its rocky IPO.

If a New York Times report is accurate, Mark Zuckerberg and co. might be thinking along the same lines. The NYT’s sources (who chose to remain anonymous) of current employees, several engineers who’ve made contact with Facebook recruiters, and “people briefed on Facebook’s plans,” claim that the company aims to release a smartphone next year. They’ve even allegedly hired over a half dozen ex-Apple engineers with experiences working on the iPhone and iPad.

It’s not the first time the company has toyed with the idea of making a smartphone, either. They initiated, but then cancelled an attempt in 2010, and reports indicated last year that Facebook had partnered with HTC for a smartphone project codenamed “Buffy” (who’s current status is unknown, but NYT sources say it’s not part of the equation here).

Facebook HTC Smartphone Development

The only real question is whether or not the third time is a charm for the social networking site. No doubt they’ve encountered challenges along the way – especially pertaining to hardware and configuring mobile infrastructure – but many of the resources are in place if they choose to proceed. The report claims that Facebook has already created an entire operating system with messaging, calendar, contacts and video, and is building an app store with thousands of big-name apps already amassed and ready to sell.

It’s still unclear as to exactly how the software and design of a Facebook phone would deviate from the plentiful offerings on the market; Facebook would only defer to a statement it made in 2011 regarding “Buffy,” asserting: “We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers.” That being said, many of the apps Facebook users download (which, for the gaming crowd, includes Angry Birds; The Walking Dead; Ghost Recon: Commander; and companions for games like Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption, and Assassin’s Creed) can easily be transplanted to a smartphone. Many got their start on one.

Ranters, do you think a Facebook smartphone would be successful in the mobile industry? What would you like to see out of its features: aesthetics, functionality, pricing, etc?

Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple

Source: New York Times

tags: Facebook